I admire Emily Hanford and her work. I’ve been interviewed several times by her over the years. She always has treated me respectfully. She asks probing questions and relies on relevant research for the most part. In my experience, her quotes are accurate and fitting.
That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with all her views or even how she frames some of her arguments. Nevertheless, in my opinion, she usually gets things right, and I’m sympathetic with most of her conclusions since I believe they’re more in tune with what research reveals about reading instruction than the positions of her supposedly expert critics.
The major thrust of her work (not just the documentaries you note, but also earlier productions) has been that readers must translate print (orthography) into pronunciation (phonology) and that explicit teaching of phonics helps kids learn to do this. She also emphasizes that many schools are not providing such instruction and that many teachers aren’t prepared to teach it. Finally, she’s revealed that the currently most popular commercial reading programs ignore or minimize phonics instruction, and teach approaches to word reading that science has rejected (like 3-cueing, in which students are taught to read words by looking at the pictures or guessing from context).
Those positions are sound; well supported by lots of high-quality research. My disagreements with Ms. Hanford’s work are more around the edges. I think she puts too much emphasis on the motivations of those who’ve advanced theories that don’t stand the test of evidence. Also, her reports tend to imply greater consequences of the problems identified than is prudent (something I might write about soon).
The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”
My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results
2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results
Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results
Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.
No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?